sustainability

Small Grants for Big Change: Expanding Herbal Access Through Our 2020 Gaia Roots Small Grants Program

Having access to herbs and herbal supplements for health is now more important than ever. To improve access to those at need, we are excited to announce the opening of our Gaia Herbs Roots Initiative (Gaia Roots) small grants program. Open through July 31, we will be awarding four $5,000 grants to organizations and individuals based in the United States that are working to increase herbal access to drive community empowerment and health. The four winners of the $5,000 grants will be announced in August.

“We have a strong foundation of advocating for farmer prosperity and environmental regeneration through our Gaia Roots program,” said Alison Czeczuga, Sustainability and Social Impact Manager. “This year, we have broadened the emphasis for our small grants program to focus on projects expanding herbal access to underserved communities, supporting health and personal empowerment in these regions. There is a critical need in this area and our grants program will help communities develop and strengthen programs that bring herbs and herbal products to marginalized populations in a time when they are most urgently needed.”

The Importance of Herbal Access

The change in the grant program's focus from regenerative agriculture and farmers' justice initiatives to projects focused on expanding herbal access was inspired by the sudden increase in demand for herbal products supporting immune health that all herbal companies have been experiencing since the COVID-19 health crisis began. This global pandemic magnified the imbalance and inequality surrounding both healthcare access as well as access to products supporting health and well-being.

"The use of plants for healing predates recorded history, and forms the origin of much of modern medicine. Gaia is honored to be part of nurturing and growing this tradition. In order to fulfill our purpose of connecting plants, people, and planet to create healing, we must use our voice to challenge historic and ongoing racism and other forms of structured oppression. Racial and ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged populations face additional challenges in having access to healthcare in the United States. When they do receive it, their care may not be equivalent to that of other groups. As a company, it is our responsibility to help inspire the change needed to build a strong and equitable system where healthcare is a human right, and not just a right for those that can afford it,” said Angela McElwee, President and CEO.

McElwee went onto say, “This systemic issue also extends to access to products that support health, and this reality became even more clear with the COVID-19 crisis happening. While some people can readily purchase herbs and herbal products to support their immune health, for others this access is much more limited. Recognizing this disparity, we made the conscious decision to focus our small grants program this year to award organizations expanding access to herbs and herbal products to minority and economically disadvantaged communities."

What Does Herbal Access Mean?

Holy Basil in hand

Herbal access is about expanding the availability of herbs and herbal products to racial and ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged populations. It also means providing educational tools to empower people to learn about the herbs and their traditional usage, teaching people how to cultivate their own herbs, and building a foundation of wellness for participants and their families.

Applying for a 2020 Small Grant

The Gaia Roots small grants program is open to U.S.-based social enterprises, non-profit organizations, small businesses, individual herbalists, and naturopaths. To apply for the small grants program, focusing on projects supporting herbal access, organizations must complete the official application and provide a quarterly progress report on their project. In an effort to advance herbal knowledge and education, establishments must also be willing to allow us to share their story and highlight the important work that will be accomplished with the grant funds. Examples of the types of projects that the initiative will consider funding include herbal education programs, free or mobile clinics, herbal farming, and community garden projects.

What is Gaia Roots?

Guided by our purpose of connecting people, plants, and planet to create healing, and seeking to expand that powerful impact beyond the footprint of our own land, led to the birth of our Gaia Roots social impact program. Through Gaia Roots, we form partnerships with like-minded, purpose-driven individuals, and organizations to develop programs that have a positive social and environmental impact in communities throughout the world.

Our work is focused on the three key pillars of this initiative:

  • People: Educating and supporting community organizations and small farmers focused on regenerative farming, herbal education, and social justice efforts. Through the annual small grants program, monetary awards are given to organizations meeting the grant criteria and focused on strengthening communities in the U.S. In 2019, we awarded grants to the following inspiring organizations: Catatumbo Cooperative Farm, Green Heffa Farms, GrowingChange, and Ogema Organics.
  • Plants: Five percent of profits from specific product lines are donated to organizations that develop farmer training and education initiatives that empower marginalized farmers in the U.S. and empower herbal access to lower-income and underserved populations.
  • Planet: Supporting the positive works of other organizations helping to support regenerative agriculture projects beyond our farm, which helps make a larger positive impact globally.

Planting Seeds for the Future

There is a beautiful quote that says, "To plant a seed today is to believe in tomorrow." By supporting the powerful and inspiring work of other organizations in communities across the U.S. through our Gaia Roots social impact program, we are planting seeds for positive change and playing a small part in creating a better and brighter future.